K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: In Many Cities, Rent Is Rising Out of Reach of Middle Class

Shaila Dewan:

For rent and utilities to be considered affordable, they are supposed to take up no more than 30 percent of a household’s income. But that goal is increasingly unattainable for middle-income families as a tightening market pushes up rents ever faster, outrunning modest rises in pay.

The strain is not limited to the usual high-cost cities like New York and San Francisco. An analysis for The New York Times by Zillow, the real estate website, found 90 cities where the median rent — not including utilities — was more than 30 percent of the median gross income.

In Chicago, rent as a percentage of income has risen to 31 percent, from a historical average of 21 percent. In New Orleans, it has more than doubled, to 35 percent from 14 percent. Zillow calculated the historical average using data from 1985 to 2000.

Nationally, half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to a comprehensive Harvard study, up from 38 percent of renters in 2000. In December, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan declared “the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known.”

Science teacher’s suspension spurs petition drive: Cortines School’s Greg Schiller was removed by L.A. Unified after two students’ projects were deemed to resemble weapons

Howard Blume:

A popular Los Angeles high school science teacher has been suspended after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom.

Students and parents have rallied around Greg Schiller after his suspension in February from the downtown Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts. Supporters have organized a rally on his behalf at the campus for Thursday, gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition calling for his reinstatement and set up a social media page.

Schiller was ordered to report daily to a district administrative office pending an investigation after two students turned in science-fair projects that were designed to shoot small projectiles.

One project used compressed air to propel a small object but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.)

Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. When the ninth-grader proposed it, Schiller told him to be more scientific, to construct and test different coils and to draw graphs and conduct additional analysis, said his parents, who also are Los Angeles teachers.

Whether it’s bikes or bytes, teens are teens

Danah Boyd:

If you’re like most middle-class parents, you’ve probably gotten annoyed with your daughter for constantly checking her Instagram feed or with your son for his two-thumbed texting at the dinner table. But before you rage against technology and start unfavorably comparing your children’s lives to your less-wired childhood, ask yourself this: Do you let your 10-year-old roam the neighborhood on her bicycle as long as she’s back by dinner? Are you comfortable, for hours at a time, not knowing your teenager’s exact whereabouts?
 What American children are allowed to do — and what they are not — has shifted significantly over the last 30 years, and the changes go far beyond new technologies.
 If you grew up middle-class in America prior to the 1980s, you were probably allowed to walk out your front door alone and — provided it was still light out and you had done your homework — hop on your bike and have adventures your parents knew nothing about. Most kids had some kind of curfew, but a lot of them also snuck out on occasion. And even those who weren’t given an allowance had ways to earn spending money — by delivering newspapers, say, or baby-sitting neighborhood children.
 All that began to change in the 1980s. In response to anxiety about “latchkey” kids, middle- and upper-class parents started placing their kids in after-school programs and other activities that filled up their lives from morning to night. Working during high school became far less common. Not only did newspaper routes become a thing of the past but parents quit entrusting their children to teenage baby-sitters, and fast-food restaurants shifted to hiring older workers.

Why do we love to organise knowledge into trees?

Jonathan Keats:

IN THE early 1990s, 14 computer scientists at the University of Maryland were sharing an 80-megabyte hard drive. The drive was often overloaded, with expendable files taking up space in neglected sub-directories. Finding anything was like blindly reaching along all the branches of an overgrown tree.

There had to be a better way, thought departmental professor Ben Shneiderman. So he wrote a six-line algorithm that visualised the drive as a rectangle. Vertical divisions split the rectangle into smaller ones, representing directories, which then subdivided horizontally to show subdirectories. Each of the smallest rectangles corresponded to a megabyte of storage space, so free space was visible at a glance.

He called his invention a “treemap”, and it was adopted by computer labs around the world. It soon found other uses, such as in an interactive chart of stocks and shares, still popular today.

These hierarchical treemaps “epitomize the recent growth of information visualization”, writes Manuel Lima in The Book of Trees: Visualizing branches of knowledge. And as big data engulfs labs and lives, the need for such powerful visualisations will only increase.

More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise

Tara Bahrampour:

When Paul Vaughn, an economics major, was in his third year at George Mason University, he decided to save money by moving off campus. He figured that skipping the basic campus meal plan, which costs $1,575 for 10 meals a week each semester, and buying his own food would make life easier.

But he had trouble affording the $50 a week he had budgeted for food and ended up having to get two jobs to pay for it. “Almost as bad as the hunger itself is the stress that you’re going to be hungry,” said Vaughn, 22, now in his fifth year at GMU. “I spend more time thinking ‘How am I going to make some money so I can go eat?’ and I focus on that when I should be doing homework or studying for a test.”

A problem known as “food insecurity” — a lack of nutritional food — is not typically associated with U.S. college students. But it is increasingly on the radar of administrators, who report seeing more hungry students, especially at schools that enroll a high percentage of youths who are from low-income families or are the first generation to attend college.

How Different is the Public University of Michigan from the For-Profit University of Phoenix? Ask Tim Slottow

Student Union of Michigan:

On April 1, 2014, the University of Michigan announced on The University Record that its Chief Financial Officer Tim Slottow would become the new president of the for-profit University of Phoenix. It sounded so ridiculous that even Michael Proppe, the president of the Central Student Government (CSG) and someone who we don’t usually see eye to eye with, was convinced it was an April fools joke. What could the CFO of a public university like the University of Michigan possibly know about running a for-profit private university like the University of Phoenix? Wouldn’t it be hard for him to adjust to the logic of a for-profit (recently probed by the Senate) after spending 12 years working at an ostensibly public institution? If Slottow’s tenure at the University of Michigan is any indication, the answer is a resounding “No.”

The institution whose finances Tim Slottow was charged with managing is no longer public in any meaningful sense of the word. During Slottow’s tenure as CFO at the University of Michigan from 2002 to 2014, one year of lower division undergraduate in-state tuition more than doubled, increasing from $6,395 to $12,948. If tuition had kept pace with inflation it would be about $8,346. Furthermore, the University has radically reshaped the student body, privileging wealthier students whose families can afford exorbitant out-of-state tuition while pricing out students from lower class backgrounds and Black, Latin@, and Native American students. There’s now more students at U-M whose parents make over $200,000 that there are students whose parents make less than $75,000.* Rich students want fancy facilities, so the university has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to expensive, unnecessary construction projects. The University now brings in over $1 billion in revenue each year from students’ tuition (just under half of which are paid for with loans).

Slottow’s management of the University’s finances, however, must have been even more attractive to the University of Phoenix’s board of trustees. His accomplishments are duly noted in the University’s press release:

The College Contraction Has Begun

Hamilton Nolan:

An entire generation of Americans has been sold the idea of higher education as a panacea for all ills. That generation of Americans is now shackled…
 Last year, US college enrollment registered a notable decline for the first time in decades. The college boom had peaked. Now, the contraction begins.
 It starts around the margins—community colleges and shitty “for profit” colleges losing students who recognize that they are not necessarily a good investment. A year ago, experts said that “signs point to 2013-14 being the year when traditional four-year, nonprofit colleges begin a contraction that will last for several years.” That prediction appears to be coming true.
 Bloomberg today surveys the doom that is now creeping into the smaller, weaker, less popular, less financially stable class of private four year colleges. As their own enrollment declines—and without the huge endowments necessary to fill the holes—they risk falling into “death spirals” of continuing cuts and falling popularity, until nothing is left. After the shock of the recession, the weak of higher education are beginning to fall by the wayside:

Via Marc Eisen.

On Milwaukee (and Madison’s) Reading Crisis

Alan Borsuk

Jean Maier says she now realizes two of the important qualities needed to make progress in dealing with Milwaukee’s reading crisis:

Humility and tenacity.

One piece of good news is that she has seen them in action in places such as Gwen T. Jackson School, 2121 W. Hadley St., a Milwaukee public school where improvement in reading achievement is an urgent need. (How urgent? Scores improved this year so only 84.7% of students were rated below proficient in reading in state test results released last week.)

Another — and I hope broader — piece of good news is that the carefully constructed (which can be read as “slow aborning”) efforts of Milwaukee Succeeds are entering the action stage. In recent weeks, I visited three pilot programs associated with the everyone-at-the-table campaign by civic leaders to improve the lot of children in the city.

I liked what I saw, in terms of the projects. I was sobered by the depth of the problem, both when I watched kids struggle with reading basics and when I looked at the new wave of test results. But I did feel like a lot of care, commitment and intelligence is going into finding more effective ways of helping kids with reading. That is one of several major focal points for the Milwaukee Succeeds effort.

Two of the Milwaukee Succeeds pilots I visited focused on tutoring. There are a lot of people who want to help kids improve their reading, including volunteers ranging from college students to retirees. But, frankly, there have been two big problems with tutoring efforts citywide.

One is that they focus too much on kids who are actually doing OK and too little on those who really need help. The Milwaukee Succeeds folks have put together compelling data to show this.

Diversity and Dishonesty

Ross Douthat:

EARLIER this year, a column by a Harvard undergraduate named Sandra Y. L. Korn briefly achieved escape velocity from the Ivy League bubble, thanks to its daring view of how universities should approach academic freedom.
 Korn proposed that such freedom was dated and destructive, and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. No more, she wrote, should Harvard permit its faculty to engage in “research promoting or justifying oppression” or produce work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” Instead, academic culture should conform to left-wing ideas of the good, beautiful and true, and decline as a matter of principle “to put up with research that counters our goals.”
 No higher-up at Harvard endorsed her argument, of course. But its honesty of purpose made an instructive contrast to the institutional statements put out in the immediate aftermath of two recent controversies — the resignation of the Mozilla Foundation’s C.E.O., Brendan Eich, and the withdrawal, by Brandeis University, of the honorary degree it had promised to the human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Idea of New Attention Disorder Spurs Research, and Debate

Alan Schwarz:

With more than six million American children having received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, concern has been rising that the condition is being significantly misdiagnosed and overtreated with prescription medications.
 Yet now some powerful figures in mental health are claiming to have identified a new disorder that could vastly expand the ranks of young people treated for attention problems. Called sluggish cognitive tempo, the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing. By some researchers’ estimates, it is present in perhaps two million children.
 Experts pushing for more research into sluggish cognitive tempo say it is gaining momentum toward recognition as a legitimate disorder — and, as such, a candidate for pharmacological treatment. Some of the condition’s researchers have helped Eli Lilly investigate how its flagship A.D.H.D. drug might treat it.

Rhetoric and Composition: Academic Capitalism and Cheap Teachers

Ann Larson:

WWhen I enrolled in the PhD Program in English at the CUNY Graduate Center to study Composition and Rhetoric, I was idealistic about the future of the discipline and my own place in it. I believed that Comp and Rhet (as I came to call it) was asking crucial questions that were central to the mission of higher education in America. I still believe that. But, after working in the field in a number of full-time and part-time positions over several years, my idealism has turned to despair at what I now regard as Composition’s great shame. It has left me to doubt that there is a place in the field for me and for many others like me.

As anyone who teaches college writing is probably aware, the majority of such courses are taught by contingent faculty, including adjuncts and graduate students. These workers usually receive low wages and few benefits. (Some long-term CUNY adjuncts receive health care, but even this small benefit has recently come under attack.) This is not just a local problem. Recent data shows that adjuncts now earn a national average salary of just $2,758 per course, which means teaching eight to ten courses per year results in a salary of $22,064 and $27,500. These are poverty and near-poverty wages. More recently, Josh Boldt, who compiles information on the pay rates and overall treatment of adjunct faculty on his Adjunct Project blog, has confirmed in chilling fashion what we already know: many adjuncts have no access to benefits, no role in university governance, and are rarely told if they will have classes to teach from one semester to the next.

Mother wishes she had restricted flow of prescription drugs to her son

Jennifer Brown:

Looking back, Pam Herrera wishes she had asked more questions and been more forceful with her son’s therapists.
 The list of medications her son took ages 4-16 is staggering: multiple antipsychotics, antidepressants and stimulants, sometimes five at a time, each at the maximum dose allowed. He was so medicated, Herrera said, “we disintegrated his ability to learn.”
 The Herreras, foster parents to more than 100 children over the past 18 years, first met Anthony when he was 15 months old. He was so neglected and malnourished that he could not sit up or eat solid food.
 They adopted him in 1998, when he was 3, and for the next several years struggled to control behavior so violent and out of control that it took over their lives.

The home-school conundrum Meeting the German Christians who claimed asylum in America

The Economist:

Civil disobedience does not come easily to Morristown, a conservative spot of almost 30,000 souls. Yet city fathers swore to endure jail time, if necessary, to shield Uwe Romeike, his wife Hannelore and their seven children, from federal agents with orders to expel them from Morristown, where they have lived since fleeing Baden-Württemberg in 2008. A stand-off seemed likely when, on March 3rd, the Supreme Court declined to hear a final appeal against the Romeikes’ expulsion, handing victory to the American government, which had always rejected the family’s claims to be refugees from religious and social persecution. However, a day later federal officials put the family’s deportation on indefinite hold—thereby allowing them to stay without setting a legal precedent (and without insulting Germany, a close ally).
 German laws forbid parents from educating their children at home in almost all cases, citing society’s interest in avoiding closed-off “parallel societies”. Germany’s highest court calls schools the best place to bring together children of different beliefs and values, in the name of “lived tolerance”. In plainer language, the Romeikes believe that, if they return to Germany, their children face being taken to school by force. This happened in 2006: the youngsters wept as they were driven away in a police van. (On the next school morning supporters showed up and officers backed off.) Worse, their children might be taken into care—this is the family’s greatest fear, prompting their flight from Germany. As the Romeikes scanned the globe for options, the Home School Legal Defence Association, a Virginia-based group, urged them to apply for asylum in America. The hope was to cause a fuss in the press, says an HSLDA lawyer, Michael Donnelly, and to “fuel the flame of liberty in Germany”.

Is college worth it? Too many degrees are a waste of money. The return on higher education would be much better if college were cheaper

The Economist:

WHEN LaTisha Styles graduated from Kennesaw State University in Georgia in 2006 she had $35,000 of student debt. This obligation would have been easy to discharge if her Spanish degree had helped her land a well-paid job. But there is no shortage of Spanish-speakers in a nation that borders Latin America. So Ms Styles found herself working in a clothes shop and a fast-food restaurant for no more than $11 an hour.
 Frustrated, she took the gutsy decision to go back to the same college and study something more pragmatic. She majored in finance, and now has a good job at an investment consulting firm. Her debt has swollen to $65,000, but she will have little trouble paying it off.

Many American universities offer lousy value for money. The government can help change that

The Economist:

YOU cannot place a value on education. Knowledge is the food of the soul, Plato supposedly remarked. Great literature “irrigates the deserts” of our lives, as C.S. Lewis put it. But a college education comes with a price tag—up to $60,000 a year for a four-year residential degree at an American university.
 A report by PayScale, a research firm, tries to measure the returns on higher education in America (see article). They vary enormously. A graduate in computer science from Stanford can expect to make $1.7m more over 20 years than someone who never went to college, after the cost of that education is taken into account. A degree in humanities and English at Florida International University leaves you $132,000 worse off. Arts degrees (broadly defined) at 12% of the colleges in the study offered negative returns; 30% offered worse financial rewards than putting the cash in 20-year Treasury bills.
 None of this matters if you are rich and studying fine art to enhance your appreciation of the family Rembrandts. But most 18-year-olds in America go to college to get a good job. That is why the country’s students have racked up $1.1 trillion of debt—more than America’s credit-card debts. For most students college is still a wise investment, but for many it is not. Some 15% of student debtors default within three years; a startling 115,000 graduates work as caretakers.

Annie E. Casey study highlights problems; Pilot projects in Milwaukee work on answers

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation published “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children” earlier this month. This is another chance for Wisconsin to see how its children are faring in comparison to the rest of the country.

Taking into account 12 separate factors, only some of which are related to education, Wisconsin white children scored 11th out of 50 states for opportunity, while Wisconsin black children scored last out of 50 states.

Looking at just the 4th grade reading proficiency rates, Wisconsin scored in the bottom half for its white students and last for black students. Our proficiency rate for white students (41%) was lower than 28 states, the same as 4 others, and higher than 18. Our proficiency rate for black students (11%) was the same as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio. 38 states had higher percentages of black students reading proficiently, and no states were lower.

These reading results echo the results coming out of the past several administrations of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) reading exam, and underscore the need for more than tweaking our current teacher training and instructional practices. To access the report, go to http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid={5B863B11-62C7-41EC-9F7F-6D12125C4DC2}

Under the auspices of Milwaukee Succeeds, a cradle-to-career initiative in the city of Milwaukee, several pilot reading tutoring programs taking an explicit, systematic approach to beginning reading skills are showing favorable early results. Alan Borsuk comments in his column, “In Milwaukee’s reading crisis, seeds of hope sprout.” Three of the programs utilize volunteer tutors trained and coached by professionals. If you are interested in being a volunteer tutor during the 2014-15 school year, contact Milwaukee Succeeds for more information.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California Pension Math Test

The Wall Street Journal

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has a well-deserved rap as a taxpayer drain. So to rehabilitate its image, the pension fund has produced a “study” purporting that public-worker pensions are California’s biggest jobs generator. As if Californians needed more reason to doubt the pension behemoth’s math.

According to the 14-page analysis, “CalPERS benefit payments and investments in California are essential to the state’s economy” (Calpers’s bolded emphasis). For instance, Calpers “supports” 1.5 million jobs in the state. That figure includes every job at a California business in which Calpers invests including the 664 companies in its public equity portfolio like Google, GOOGL -1.63% Apple AAPL -0.74% and Walt Disney. DIS -0.65% Who knew that the public pension fund was essential to the survival of so many successful California public companies?

Calpers also notes that “the economic impact of CalPERS benefits far exceed initial taxpayer contributions.” Lo, the fund claims to return $10.85 in “economic activity” for every dollar taxpayers contribute, which would make public pensions the best government stimulus of all time.

What Relocating Grads Should Be Thinking About

Lindsay Gellman:

Not long after Molly Patterson tossed her cap in the air with her fellow Yale College Class of 2013 graduates, she found herself in a new and unfamiliar city far from the East Coast where she grew up.

Instead of returning home to Reston, Va., the 22-year-old had relocated to Houston for a chemical-engineering position at a large oil-and-gas company.

Though she worked with a real-estate agent through her employer’s staff-relocation service, Ms. Patterson also spoke with Houston natives and scoured real-estate sites like Zillow.com Z -6.97% and Trulia.com to get the lay of the land.

To meet people and begin to put down roots, she quickly joined a local weekly trivia-night group and signed up to audit a Chinese-language course at nearby Rice University.

Teaching Financial Literacy, Starting With Teens

Carolyn Geer:

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, 54 years old, didn’t have a lot of money growing up. What she did have was a role model in her father, Charles Schwab, who founded the brokerage firm that bears his name in a two-room office in 1971. “My dad was a struggling businessman until I was in my 20s,” she says.

As a teenager she worked (baby sitting, a paper route, secretary) and she saved—opening a savings account, moving back home after college to scrape together her first and last month’s rent and to buy herself a bed and a dresser.

And she is still working, now to impart the good money habits she learned first hand to those not fortunate enough to have role models like “Chuck.”

It’s no secret that financial illiteracy is rampant in the U.S., where less than one-third of the population can correctly answer three simple questions on interest rates, inflation and diversification, according to a study by Annamaria Lusardi of the George Washington University School of Business. But the jury is still out on what, if anything, to do about it.

It Doesn’t Matter Where You Go to College

Michael Bernick:

It just matters that you go.
 This month, high school seniors across America are receiving college decision letters of acceptance and rejection. Many of these students, and their parents, will think that where they go to college will significantly affect their employment future.
 They think wrong. Today, whether you go to college retains some importance in your employment options. But where you go to college is of almost no importance. Whether your degree, for example, is from UCLA or from less prestigious Sonoma State matters far less than your academic performance and the skills you can show employers.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Worker’s Compensation

Madison Teachers, Inc. via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email (PDF):

Among the many excellent benefits available to MTI members, guaranteed by MTI’s various Collective Bargaining Agreements, is the additional worker’s compensation benefit, i.e., benefits greater than those provided by Wisconsin Statutes.

Wisconsin Statutes provide a worker’s compensation benefit for absence caused by a work-related injury or illness, but the benefit does not begin until the 4th day of absence, and has a maximum weekly financial benefit.
MTI’s Collective Bargaining Agreements provide that one absent from work because of a work- related injury or illness will receive his/her full wage, and that it begins on day one of the absence. Further, MTI’s negotiated benefits for worker’s compensation are not limited by Wisconsin Statutes, i.e., there is no maximum. MTI’s Contracts also provide that one’s earned sick leave is not consumed by absence caused by a work-related illness or injury.

Although MTI is working to preserve this benefit, it is at risk due to Governor Walker’s Act 10.

‘Selfie’ body image warning issued

Helen Briggs:

Spending lots of time on Facebook looking at pictures of friends could make women insecure about their body image, research suggests.
 The more women are exposed to “selfies” and other photos on social media, the more they compare themselves negatively, according to a study.
 Friends’ photos may be more influential than celebrity shots as they are of known contacts, say UK and US experts.
 The study is the first to link time on social media to poor body image.
 The mass media are known to influence how people feel about their appearance.
 But little is known about how social media impact on self-image.

We Need to Talk About the Test: A problem with the common core

Elizabeth Phillips

I’D like to tell you what was wrong with the tests my students took last week, but I can’t. Pearson’s $32 million contract with New York State to design the exams prohibits the state from making the tests public and imposes a gag order on educators who administer them. So teachers watched hundreds of thousands of children in grades 3 to 8 sit for between 70 and 180 minutes per day for three days taking a state English Language Arts exam that does a poor job of testing reading comprehension, and yet we’re not allowed to point out what the problems were.

This lack of transparency was one of the driving forces that led the teachers at my school to call for a protest rally the day after the test, a rally that attracted hundreds of supporters. More than 30 other New York City schools have scheduled their own demonstrations.

I want to be clear: We were not protesting testing; we were not protesting the Common Core standards. We were protesting the fact that we had just witnessed children being asked to answer questions that had little bearing on their reading ability and yet had huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools. (Among other things, test scores help determine teacher and principal evaluations, and in New York City they also have an impact on middle and high school admissions to some schools.) We were protesting the fact that it is our word against the state’s, since we cannot reveal the content of the passages or the questions that were asked.

In general terms, the tests were confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards. The questions were focused on small details in the passages, rather than on overall comprehension, and many were ambiguous. Children as young as 8 were asked several questions that required rereading four different paragraphs and then deciding which one of those paragraphs best connected to a fifth paragraph. There was a strong emphasis on questions addressing the structure rather than the meaning of the texts. There was also a striking lack of passages with an urban setting. And the tests were too long; none of us can figure out why we need to test for three days to determine how well a child reads and writes.

Teachers and administrators at my school have spoken out against the overemphasis on testing for years, but our stance is not one of “sour grapes.” Last year we were one of the 25 top-scoring schools in New York State. We have implemented the Common Core standards with enthusiasm, and we have always supported the idea that great teaching is the best test preparation. But this year’s English Language Arts exam has made a mockery of that position.

It is frightening to think what “teaching to the test” would mean, given the nature of the test. We won’t do it, but some schools will, or at least will try, despite a new state law that mandates that schools limit test prep to 2 percent of instructional time. How does one even begin to monitor or enforce such a mandate?

When people are forbidden to talk about something it is almost always because someone has something to hide.

Over the past few years, as higher stakes have been attached to the tests, we have seen schools devote more time to test prep, leaving less time and fewer resources for instruction in music, the arts, social studies and physical education. This is especially true for schools with a high proportion of low-income students, who tend to do worse on the test, and whose teachers and principals have to worry more about the scores.

At Public School 321, we entered this year’s testing period doing everything that we were supposed to do as a school. We limited test prep and kept the focus on great instruction. We reassured families that we would avoid stressing out their children, and we did. But we believed that New York State and Pearson would have listened to the extensive feedback they received last year and revised the tests accordingly. We were not naïve enough to think that the tests would be transformed, but we counted on their being slightly improved. It truly was shocking to look at the exams in third, fourth and fifth grade and to see that they were worse than ever. We felt as if we’d been had.

For two years, I have suggested that the commissioner of education and the members of the Board of Regents actually take the tests — I’d recommend Days 1 and 3 of the third-grade test for starters. Afterward, I would like to hear whether they still believed that these tests gave schools and parents valuable information about a child’s reading or writing ability.

We do not want to become cynics, but until these flawed exams are released to the public and there is true transparency, it will be difficult for teachers and principals to maintain the optimism that is such an essential element of educating children.

Elizabeth Phillips has been the principal of Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, for 15 years.

These charts explain what’s behind America’s soaring college costs

Ronan Keenan:

The growing $1.1 trillion student debt burden in the US has been well documented, yet concerns are subdued. That’s because the burden, unlike the housing crisis, won’t cause a sudden economic crash. Instead, it will prompt a slow strangulation of spending spread over many years. Congress has made some minor efforts to reduce interest rates on debt, but the necessity for such large loans must be scrutinized. And that means confronting the indulgences of colleges.
 Tuition costs have soared in recent decades. In 1973, the average cost for tuition and fees at a private nonprofit college was $10,783, adjusted for 2013 dollars. Costs tripled over the ensuing 40 years, with the average jumping to $30,094 last year. Even in the last decade the increase was a staggering 25%.
 The ability of colleges to raise costs has been facilitated by a sharp increase in federal student aid. Lenders freely dispense credit to students, safe in the knowledge that all loans are guaranteed by the government. Between 1973 and 2012, federal aid (inflation-adjusted) increased more than 500%. Looking at a shorter period, between 2002 and 2012, total federal aid to students ballooned an inflation-adjusted 106% to $170 billion.

Solving China’s Schools: An Interview with Jiang Xueqin

Ian Johnson:

In December, China stunned the world when the most widely used international education assessment revealed that Shanghai’s schools now outperform those of any other country—not only in math and science but also in reading. Some education experts have attributed these results to recent reforms undertaken by the Chinese government. Jiang Xueqin has been active in Chinese education since 1998, when as a Yale undergraduate he taught for six months at one of the top high schools in China, Beida Fuzhong, or the Affiliated High School of Peking University.

A Canadian citizen whose parents emigrated from China, Jiang, who is thirty-seven, helped establish an experimental high-school program in Shenzhen in 2008 and now works for Tsinghua Fuzhong, Tsinghua University’s Affiliated High School. He just published a book in China called Creative China about his experiences in Chinese public schools. I spoke to him in Beijing in late March about the future of education in China.

What the Changing Demographics of Society Mean for Schools, Students & Society

Susan Headden (PDF):

PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHING is a profession in transition.
Already the largest occupation in the United States, it is expanding faster than the nation’s student population. Teachers of color are entering the profession at twice the rate of white teachers, reversing an exodus after civil rights victories opened many other doors to African Americans. And women are again entering the profession in greater numbers after years of bypassing the field for other opportunities.1

But what may be most significant—to students, schools, and the nation—is that teachers today are younger and markedly less experienced than a generation ago.2 Experts consider teachers with five or fewer years of experience to be still learning their craft.3 By the end of the last decade, more than a quarter of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers were in that category, compared to only about 17 percent in the late 1980s. Back then, the most common teacher in America was a 15-year veteran; two decades later, she was a first-year neophyte. 4 “The flow of new teachers,” says Richard Ingersoll, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education who studies teacher trends, “has become a flood.”

Although the recent recession pushed back the tide somewhat, and has likely raised the level of experience, the sheer number of novices in public school teaching has serious financial, structural, and educational consequences for public education—straining budgets, disrupting school cultures and, most significantly, depressing student achievement.

Yet there has been scant discussion of the phenomenon by education policymakers. “I don’t know why everybody isn’t talking about this,” says Gail McGee, manager of new teacher induction for the Houston Independent School District. “It overwhelms me. Everybody, everywhere, is single-mindedly focused on the achievement gap, and nobody is spending any time talking about what potentially could be one of the biggest underlies of why we have one.”6

Coursera Creates Bricks & Mortar Learning Hubs

Sean Coughlin:

Online university providers, which offered people the chance to study from home, are turning full circle by creating a network of learning centres where students can meet and study together.
 Instead of demolishing the dusty old classrooms, the online university revolution is responsible for opening some new ones.
 Coursera, a major California-based provider of online courses, is creating an international network of “learning hubs”, where students can follow these virtual courses in real-life, bricks and mortar settings.
 And there are thousands of meet-ups in cafes and libraries where students get together to talk about their online courses.

IBM Creates 1st Early College High School in Connecticut

David Gurliacci:

Known as a P-TECH model school, the six-year academy is a collaboration with IBM, Norwalk Public Schools and Norwalk Community College.

Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) will serve grades 9 to 14 and enable students to graduate with both a high school diploma and a no-cost Associate in Applied Science degree that will put graduates on the path to a good job.

Created by IBM and partners, P-TECH schools are innovative public schools that bring together the best elements of high school, college, and career. There are no tests or screening required for admission.

The new school in Norwalk will be located at the Norwalk High School, and graduates will be first in line for jobs at IBM.

“As Connecticut industry and government realign for the 21st Century, it has become clear that there is a skills gap in our national and state economies,” Governor Malloy said.

“However, Connecticut is home to many industries that will be growth and innovation sectors over the next 10 to 20 years, and we must prepare our students with the skills they need to succeed in that workforce.

Has Higher Ed Peaked?

Bryan Alexander

American higher education now seems to be recovering at last from the 2008 financial crisis. Some states are increasing their support for public universities and colleges. Backlash against the impact of budget cuts seems to have the idea of austerity down a peg, if not discredited it entirely, which might free up more budgetary room for governmental support of education. On the private side, institutional endowments are finally rising after years of stagnation and decline. Domestically, American college graduates still enjoy higher lifetime earnings than those with only high school experience. Internationally, the number of students traveling to study in the United States continues to grow.

But what if these cheerful data paint an inaccurate picture? What if a battery of other data points, driven by powerful forces, exerts pressure in the opposite direction, pushing American colleges and universities into contraction? Much like “peak car,” the demand for higher education may have reached an upper point, and started to decline. Like peak oil or peak water, it’s becoming more expensive and problematic to meet demand. As a thought experiment, let us examine these forces and consider this possible scenario under the header: Peak Higher Education.

1 in 68 Children Now Has a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why?

Enrico Gnaulti:

Rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not creeping up so much as leaping up. New numbers just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that one in 68 children now has a diagnosis of ASD—a 30 percent increase in just two years. In 2002, about one in 150 children was considered autistic and in 1991 the figure was one in 500.

The staggering increase in cases of ASD should raise more suspicion in the medical community about its misdiagnosis and overdiagnosis than it does. Promoting early screening for autism is imperative. But, is it possible that the younger in age a child is when professionals screen for ASD—especially its milder cases—the greater the risk that a slow-to-mature child will be misperceived as autistic, thus driving the numbers up?

The science stacks up in favor of catching and treating ASD earlier because it leads to better outcomes. Dr. Laura Schreibman, who directs the Autism Intervention Research Program at the University of California, San Diego embodies the perspective of most experts when she says, “Psychologists need to advise parents that the ‘wait-and-see’ approach is not appropriate when ASD is expected. Delaying a diagnosis can mean giving up significant gains of intervention that have been demonstrated before age six.”

Humans Steal Jobs From Robots

Craig Trudell, Yuki Hagiwara and Ma Jie:

Inside Toyota Motor Corp.’s oldest plant, there’s a corner where humans have taken over from robots in thwacking glowing lumps of metal into crankshafts. This is Mitsuru Kawai’s vision of the future.

“We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” said Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota’s plants. “When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods, and they could make anything.”

These gods, or Kami-sama in Japanese, are making a comeback at Toyota, the company that long set the pace for manufacturing prowess in the auto industry and beyond. Toyota’s next step forward is counter-intuitive in an age of automation: Humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process.

Meanwhile: Europe’s manufacturers experiment with the ‘smart factory’.

How Higher Ed Contributes to Inequality

Dana Goldstein:

In 2011, Cornell political scientist Suzanne Mettler highlighted poll results showing a striking phenomenon: About half of the Americans receiving federal assistance in paying college tuition or medical bills believe they have never benefited from a government social program. The results are evidence of what Mettler has termed “the submerged state”—a series of policies, like tuition tax credits or federally-guaranteed student loans, that are practically invisible to citizens. That invisibility, she argues, erodes public support for the very idea of government playing an active role in people’s lives.
 Now in a new book, Degrees of Inequality, Mettler reveals how, over the past 60 years, American higher-education policy has gone from being visible and effective (the GI Bill and the Pell grant program) to being invisible and inefficient ($32 billion in federal funding for for-profit colleges with abysmal graduation rates). Congressional polarization along party lines, it turns out, played a major role, as did plummeting federal and state support for four-year public universities.

Students could be paying loans into their 50s

Katherine Sellgren:

Most students will still be paying back loans from their university days in their 40s and 50s, and many will never clear the debt, research finds.
 Almost three-quarters of graduates from England will have at least some of their loan written off, the study, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, says.
 The trust says the 2012 student finance regime will leave people vulnerable at a time when family costs are at a peak.
 Ministers said more students from less advantaged homes were taking up places.
 The study, written by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), assessed the impact of the new student loan system for fees and maintenance, introduced in England from September 2012 to coincide with higher tuition costs of up to £9,000 a year.
 The study – entitled Payback Time? – found that a typical student would now leave university with “much higher debts than before”, averaging more than £44,000.

Rise in number of unqualified teachers at state-funded schools in England

Richard Adams:

Unions reacted angrily on Thursday after official figures showed a sharp rise in the number of unqualified teachers employed by state-funded schools in England.
 The growth follows education secretary Michael Gove’s 2012 decision to give academies and free schools the freedom to hire staff without standard qualifications such as a postgraduate certificate in education.
 The Department for Education figures reveal that, after years of decline in the number of unqualified teachers in classrooms, there was a sharp jump from 14,800 in 2012 to 17,100 in November last year, when the national survey was carried out.

Foundation funding widens the gap between California’s ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ schools

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez:

Southern California researchers are finding that foundations, set up to raise money for public schools, are reintroducing funding inequality that was supposed to be eliminated back in the 1970s, when the California Supreme Court ruled on the Serrano vs. Priest case.

“The court said spending needs to be equitable between school districts, you can’t have Beverly Hills spending twice as much as the other guys, per pupil, because a child’s education should not be dependent on the wealth of the area in which they happen to live,” said Cal State Fullerton professor Sarah Hill.

She and two colleagues have compiled information from about 1,500 education foundations and other fundraising groups such as booster clubs and PTAs, along with Internal Revenue Service data, to create a database Hill said is the first of its kind.

“We’re doing more of a sophisticated analysis looking at how wealth matters for which school districts are able to raise money. How demographics matter,” she said.

Some Northern California public school foundations are raising additional funds of about $2,000 per student. Researchers say that figure is a significant addition to the roughly $8,000 per student the state gives public schools each year. California’s current level of per pupil spending is the second lowest in the country.

Unofficial Enforcer of Ruling on Race in College Admissions

Adam Liptak:

It was the last Monday in June, and the Supreme Court had just issued its latest decision on affirmative action. The debate was starting about how much the court had restricted the use of race in college admissions.

But Edward Blum, the legal entrepreneur who had orchestrated the case, wasted no time. He made a prediction that sounded a little like a threat.

“Those universities that continue using race-based affirmative action,” he said, “will likely find themselves embroiled in costly and polarizing litigation.”

It is now almost a year later. Admissions letters have just gone out, and there is no particular reason to think the court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas affected how students were selected. And the lawsuits Mr. Blum predicted have not materialized.

Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, said her race was held against her.Justices Step Up Scrutiny of Race in College EntryJUNE 24, 2013
There are reasons for that, Mr. Blum told me last week. One is that it is hard to find plaintiffs willing to call attention to having been rejected by a prestigious institution, to blame that rejection on race discrimination and to persevere through years of litigation.

Buying a College-Town Apartment—While Junior Is Still in Diapers

Alyssa Abkowitz:

Chinese businessman Li Sheng is looking for a $900,000, four-bedroom home in Australia, where he hopes his two children will someday attend college. At this point, neither child has finished grade school—one is still in diapers—but Mr. Li hopes to buy a family home in Melbourne in the next year.

Mr. Li, who lives in Harbin, an industrial city in northern China, sees the purchase as a good investment in both his real-estate portfolio and his children’s future. While China has plenty of universities, he and other affluent parents say they want their children to experience life abroad, where the educational system is less rigid. “In Chinese families, the parents make the choice for their kids,” Mr. Li, 40, says. When his children get older, “I don’t want to make choices for them. I want them to do it themselves.”

In an effort to increase the likelihood of their children studying abroad, a growing group of Chinese buyers is snapping up high-end real estate in college towns around the world. Some Chinese buyers are using the properties to meet the universities’ residency requirements. Luxury homes also offer their children an upscale alternative to dorm life. Most important, many hope that real-estate purchases will help pay the costly university tuition.

Tennessee Achievement School District leads nation on implementing portfolio reforms; new assessments show progress across districts (No Wisconsin Districts)

Center on Reinventing Public Education, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District (ASD) has again received high marks on its implementation of the portfolio strategy for managing and improving schools. New York City, Denver, and the Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans also continue to lead among districts implementing these reforms.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington has released the new rankings as part of its work supporting a national network of over 40 portfolio school systems.

CRPE’s Portfolio Implementation Snapshot Tool rates each school system’s progress on portfolio reforms. The twice-yearly assessments are based on interviews with district or other system leaders and measure implementation progress on the strategy’s seven key components: good options and choices for all families, school autonomy, pupil-based funding, a talent-seeking strategy, new sources of support for schools, performance-based accountability, and extensive public engagement.

Districts can use the online tool to track progress (or lack of it) and see how they line up with best-in-class portfolio practices and other districts in the Portfolio School District Network. “These ratings show cities where they are and where they want to be,” says Christine Campbell, CRPE’s policy director. “The cities that invest the time in these interviews and bravely open themselves up for review are making a big step forward, whether they are currently at the top or the bottom of this list. In six months’ time, some of those just getting started will see big gains because they are becoming strategic about their work and actively making use of the network’s resources.”

Falling Out of the Lead: Following High Achievers Through High School and Beyond

Marni Bromberg & Christi Theokas (PDF):

Nationally, there are 61,250 students of color and 60,300 students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds who perform among the top 25 percent of all students in reading and math at the beginning of high school.

Many high-achieving students of color and students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, however, leave high school with lower AP exam rates, lower SAT/ACT scores, and lower GPAs than their high-achieving white and more advantaged peers — a reality that influences their choices beyond high school.

Schools can take action to better serve these students. Interviews with the principal of one successful school and with high-achieving students from around the country provide insight on what practitioners can do.

Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!

Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that “they’re all rich, white kids” and that, no matter what they experience in school, “they’ll do just fine.” Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.

When the District analyzed dropout data for the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, they identified four student profiles. Of interest for the present purpose is the group identified as high achieving. Here are the data from the MMSD Research and Evaluation Report from May, 2000:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: In Crime and Economics, Data Has Its Own Biases

Whet Moser:

Davidson’s comment surprised a lot of people because, well, lots of perceptive, well-educated people have a lot of debt—it’s almost part and parcel now with becoming well-educated—and, even if they don’t have the data at hand, they had a lot of experience suggesting that household debt is problematic. Particularly by 2009—if you’d recently graduated college and bought a house not long before, then you’d done both at peak both. Perhaps you knew people who’d done it, or just ran the numbers on doing it. (His comment didn’t age well, as Mike Konczal points out.)

With Free Tuition, Mich. Students Hear ‘You Are Going To College’

Michael Martin:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I’m Michel Martin. This spring, we’re joining our colleagues at Morning Edition to take a closer look at paying for college. So far in this series, we’ve talked about navigating the mountains of paperwork, whether working during school is a good idea, and if so, how much is too much. And we’ve also talked about the huge debt that many students face after graduation. But imagine if all those worries went away.
 What if the city you lived in footed the bill for college? Kalamazoo, Michigan is doing that. In 2005, a group of anonymous donors pledged enough money to pay the tuition at any of Michigan’s public universities and community colleges for every student who graduated from the district’s public high schools.

Campus Stung by Controversial Video Moves to Ban Recordings in Class

Peter Schmidt:

The Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater has responded to a controversy over a surreptitiously obtained classroom video of a guest lecturer lambasting Republicans by moving to bar students from recording and disseminating such … – See more at: http://m.chronicle.com/article/Campus-Stung-by-Controversial/145595/#sthash.6FchW4pm.dpuf

“The Theft of the Century”: Education in Mexico


The Mexican government wisely decided that before the educational system in Mexico could be fixed, they first needed to figure out what they were dealing with. For that reason, EPN ordered the first ever Census of Schools, Teachers and Students of Basic and Special Education (basic meaning primary and middle schools).
 The results show the magnitude of the problem. Here are some key findings:
 1. “39,222 people supposedly assigned to a school in which no one actually knows them (“aviators”)
 2. 30,695 people who claim to be teachers, but who in reality work for the SNTE [National Union of Education Workers] or the CNTE [National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers—a dissident teachers group];
 3. 113,259 people who claim to be in a school, but who are located “in another place of work” (fugitives)
 4. 114,998 people who receive pay as active teachers, but who do it in the name of people who have already retired or passed away.”
 And this is a gross underestimate, since the states with “the with the most corrupt and backwards systems (Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero), refused to participate and were not included in the census.” Yikes.

What’s Behind America’s Soaring College Costs?

Ronan Keenan:

The growing $1.1 trillion student debt burden in the US has been well documented, yet concerns are subdued. That’s because the burden, unlike the housing crisis, won’t cause a sudden economic crash. Instead, it will prompt a slow strangulation of spending spread over many years. Congress has made some minor efforts to reduce interest rates on debt, but the necessity for such large loans must be scrutinized. And that means confronting the indulgences of colleges.
 Tuition costs have soared in recent decades. In 1973, the average cost for tuition and fees at a private nonprofit college was $10,783, adjusted for 2013 dollars. Costs tripled over the ensuing 40 years, with the average jumping to $30,094 last year. Even in the last decade the increase was a staggering 25 percent.

Why Education Spending Doesn’t Lead to Economic Growth

Charles Kenny:

It is college acceptance season, and letters with financial aid offers attached are dropping on doormats nationwide. Many students and an even greater number of parents are facing the sticker shock associated with tertiary education. As college prices rise—the average annual cost hit $18,497 in 2010-11, according to the National Center for Education Statistics—the question inevitably arises: Is it worth it? For the average student in the U.S. and worldwide, the answer is affirmative: Education remains a fantastic investment for individuals. The tougher question is whether education at all levels is such a great investment for societies as a whole.

In the U.S., education leads to higher wages. Median weekly earnings in 2013 were $472 for someone with less than a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number rises to $1,108 for those with a bachelor’s degree and $1,714 for those with a professional degree such as an MBA or J.D. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper suggested that the educational payoff for “marginal” college students—the ones who might not attend if it weren’t for government support, for example—may be a lot lower. Still, for most students, the high cost of college is well worth it.

That’s true worldwide as well. Recent estimates (PDF) for Ghana, for example, suggest that each additional year a child stays in school translates into an average annual income 7 percent higher. In China, that figure is 12 percent.

Children Need to Learn Context to Know When to Stop

Q&A with Christopher Chatham:

It’s happens to all of us: times when we simply cannot stop ourselves mid-action, whether running a yellow (or red) light, making an inappropriate comment, or reaching for our buzzing phone during dinner. Most of the time, adults can overcome these impulses. Children, however, are notoriously different – most of the time seemingly incapable of curbing impulsive responses. New research suggests the problem is not an inability to stop but rather that they lack awareness of their environment.

Our ability to proactively monitor our surroundings is what allows us to stop mid-action, says Yuko Munakata of the University of Colorado Boulder, who will presenting new work at the CNS conference on Tuesday. She, along with Nicolas Chevalier of the University of Edinburgh and Christopher Chatham of Brown University, tested this idea in 7- to 9-year-olds, seeing if monitoring their environments improved their ability to subsequently stop behaviors compared to simply telling them to stop.

Chatham, who will be co-chairing the session at the CNS meeting about response inhibition, talked with CNS about this new research and how it fits into the big picture of differences between children’s and adults’ capabilities.

Commencement Speeches Are For Suckers

Harold Wilde:

College presidents—and I was one for 22 years—have few more thankless jobs than procuring (and that’s the right word) commencement speakers.

The expectation of graduates and their families is that a big-time speaker will be there to put the cherry on top of the sundae that was their college experience (and all those tuition dollars). So expectations are high. The ideal commencement speaker is a household name, has landed on the moon, won a Nobel Prize and a few NBA championships, was on the cover of last week’s People magazine … and will bring front-page publicity to the school (like George Marshall’s announcement of the Marshall Plan at Harvard’s 1947 commencement), forever glorifying their graduation day.

This is a fantasy, and the commencement speaker may be a tradition that long ago outlived its usefulness. But the college president, sharing the platform with the speaker, has no choice but to be personally involved. Few mistakes on his or her watch will be more visible, or more challenging to avoid, than the wrong commencement speaker.

Start with the constituents. At many schools, the students are polled every year on their preferred list of speakers. The ones you’ve heard of (probably less than half, e.g., the rap artists) either carry a speakers bureau charge of $25,000 to $100,000— or will cost you even more in the support you lose from your biggest donors. And, anyway, you have no money to pay for a commencement speaker. “The honor of the occasion, receiving an honorary degree, it should be enough.” Right! That may work in the Ivy League and at flagship state universities, but not at 3,400 other institutions across the country.

US students rank better internationally on new problem solving test than they do on conventional math and reading exams

The Hechinger Report:

Here’s a modest test result to bolster the argument of those who say the American educational system isn’t so terrible. On a new creative problem-solving test taken by students in 44 countries and regions, U.S. 15-year-olds scored above the international average and rank at number 18 in the world. That’s much better than the below-average performance of U.S. students on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) reading and math tests conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“We think teaching through problem solving is already more developed in the US than in other countries,” said the OECD’s Pablo Zoido, in explaining why US students have higher problem-solving scores than expected.

Still, Asian countries and regions dominate the top 10 spots in creative problem solving, with Singapore, Korea and Japan taking first, second and third place. Canada, Australia and Finland were the only non-Asian nations to make it into the top 10. Shanghai, which topped the PISA charts in math and reading, was relatively weaker in problem solving at number 6.

7 key findings about stay-at-home moms

Pew Research:

More moms are staying home: The share of mothers who do not work outside the home has risen over the past decade, reversing a long-term decline in stay-at-home mothers. (In the U.S. today, 71% of all mothers work outside the home.) Two-thirds are “traditional” married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands, but a growing share is unmarried.

2 Americans say a parent at home is best: Despite the fact that most mothers in the U.S. work at least part time, 60% of Americans say children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on the family, while 35% say they are just as well off when both parents work outside the home.

The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble–Should We Celebrate?

Minding The Campus:

s students and their families rethink the value of the liberal arts, defenders of traditional education are understandably ambivalent. On the one hand, the diminished stature of the liberal arts seems long overdue, and this critical reevaluation might lead to thoughtful reform. On the other, this reevaluation might doom the liberal arts to irrelevance. To that end, Minding the Campus asked a list of distinguished thinkers a straightforward question: should we be unhappy that the liberal arts are going down? Here are responses from Heather Mac Donald, Thomas Lindsay, and Samuel Goldman.

Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan Institute

We shouldn’t only be unhappy if the liberal arts are “going down.” We should be ashamed. Our highest duty as a civilization is to keep alive those works from the past that gave birth to our present freedoms and that constitute the most profound expressions of what it means to be human.

I see no evidence that a “critical evaluation” of the liberal arts is underway, beyond an ignorant flight on the part of some college students towards more allegedly marketable majors. This idea of a job-ready major is a fallacy; outside of vocational training and some select STEM fields, few majors, whether economics or philosophy, have a direct connection to most jobs.

But while the marketable major is an illusion, there is no question that the conceit is driving many students away from humanistic study. The irony is that colleges are themselves wholly responsible for endangering those fields that were once their very raison d’être. For it is their sky-high tuitions that are fueling this migration into purportedly more bankable fields and their adolescent politicization of the humanities that is failing to give students a reason to look back.

Tuition levels are the result of universities’ own decision-making–above all, their insatiable drive to expand their student services bureaucracy. No branch of that endlessly growing bureaucracy is more senseless and self-indulgent than the diversity superstructure, founded as it is on a demonstrable lie: that colleges are bastions of discrimination against minorities and females.

The Power of the Earliest Memories Sorry, Facebook: Parents, Not Snapshots, Are the Way for Kids to Capture and Benefit From Memories

Sue Shellenbarger:

Those early childhood memories, which are so quick to fade, are important in influencing decisions in later life. WSJ’s Sue Shellenbarger reports on Lunch Break. Photo: Getty Images.

What you can remember from age 3 may help improve aspects of your life far into adulthood.

Children who have the ability to recall and make sense of memories from daily life—the first day of preschool, the time the cat died—can use them to better develop a sense of identity, form relationships and make sound choices in adolescence and adulthood, new research shows.

While the lives of many youngsters today are heavily documented in photos and video on social media and stored in families’ digital archives, studies suggest photos and videos have little impact. Parents play a bigger role in helping determine not just how many early memories children can recall, but how children interpret and learn from the events of their earliest experiences.

“Our personal memories define who we are. They bond us together,” says Robyn Fivush, a psychology professor at Emory University in Atlanta and an author of dozens of studies on the topic. Children whose parents encourage reminiscing and storytelling about daily events show better coping and problem-solving skills by their preteens, and fewer symptoms of depression, research shows.

Corporate Cash Alters University Curricula

Douglas Belkin & Caroline Porter:

More companies are entering partnerships with colleges to help design curricula, as state universities seek new revenue and industry tries to close a yawning skills gap. Doug Belkin reports on Lunch Break. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick for The Wall Street Journal.

The University of Maryland has had to tighten its belt, cutting seven varsity sports teams and forcing faculty and staff to take furlough days. But in a corner of the campus, construction workers are building a dormitory specifically designed for a new academic program.

Many of the students who live there will be enrolled in a cybersecurity concentration funded in part by Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC -0.35% The defense contractor is helping to design the curriculum, providing the computers and paying part of the cost of the new dorm.

Such partnerships are springing up from the dust of the recession, as state universities seek new revenue and companies try to close a yawning skills gap in fast-changing industries.

Mind Which Gap? The Selective Concern Over Statistical Sex Disparities

Kingsley R. Browne:

Implicit in the materials for this conference is the assumption that any gap that exists between men and women in the workplace (at least if the gap seems to disfavor women) should be eliminated. The question is asked, “how can this gap be explained and rectified?,” implying that “rectification” should follow irrespective of how the gap is explained.

There are many statistical disparities between the sexes in our world, but only some become the subject of widespread concern. Ones that are perceived as favoring men are labeled “gaps,” while those that favor women are simply facts. Outside the workplace, men are arguably disadvantaged in a variety of arenas, whether in terms of health and longevity, crime and violence, domestic relations, or education. In the workplace, men are far more likely than women to be killed and to work long hours. None of these disparities is generally viewed as a “gap” deserving of intervention, however. Men earn a disproportionate number of Ph.Ds in some fields, while women earn a disproportionate number in others. Only the former set of disparities, however, is typically viewed as a “gap.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois legislature passes Chicago pension fund reform

Neil Munshi:

The Illinois legislature has passed a plan to overhaul two of the funds in the Chicago pension system, by far the most underfunded of any large US city.

The move is an important first step toward shoring up the combined $27bn unfunded liability the city and its school district have racked up after years of the government failing to pay its share. The massive liability has caused the city to suffer multiple credit rating downgrades in recent years.

The bill now moves to the desk of Governor Pat Quinn, who has not indicated whether he will sign it into law.

The reform addresses the pension funds for municipal employees and labourers, which are 37.6 per cent and 56.3 per cent funded, respectively. The bill would increase the funding levels to 90 per cent by 2055 through benefit cuts and increases in employee contributions.

Are university rankings the tip of the iceberg?

Ellen Hazelkorn:

After a decade, it’s clear that rankings have, controversially, fired a shot across the bow of higher education and their host governments. They may have started out being about informing student choice but, in today’s highly globalised and competitive world, they have become much more about geo-political factors for nations and higher education institutions.

In the process, they have become a profitable industry – replete with perceptions of conflict of interest and self-interest, along with self-appointed auditors – all of which, in this post-global financial crisis age, would almost certainly provoke concern in other sectors.

By monetising educational data in different ways, these initiatives are tantamount to new product development or revitalising products in response to new market opportunities or consumer demand.

Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools

Erin Richards & Kevin Crowe:

Reading and math proficiency for students attending private, mostly religious schools in Milwaukee with the help of taxpayer-funded vouchers ticked up in 2013 from 2012, according to the latest state standardized test score results.

On average, students in Milwaukee’s private-school voucher program still performed lower than students in the city’s traditional public school system.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released fall test score data for the taxpayer-funded private voucher schools on Tuesday, one day after allowing media to review the fall 2013 state test score results for public schools.

In all, reading and math achievement on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination for both the public and private voucher schools, especially in Milwaukee, continued to be low. That’s due in part to the state raising the bar for what’s considered a proficient score on the state test.

The WKCE will be replaced next year by a new, computer-based assessment in reading and math that is aligned to national standards and will allow for better comparisons of achievement between states.

Another issue that has cropped up is an increasing number of voucher-school families opting their children out of taking the state exams altogether — a legal option, but one seemingly at odds with the statewide push toward more transparency for schools.

Gov. Scott Walker signed two bills into law Tuesday that will bring more accountability to the private schools receiving taxpayer money.

Meanwhile, the latest state test results showed:

About 16% of Milwaukee voucher students who took the state test met or exceeded the bar for proficiency in math, and about 12% did the same in reading.

Much more on the oft criticized WKCE, here.

Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

Michael Rosenwald:

Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, scampering off to the next page she probably won’t commit to.
 “I give it a few seconds — not even minutes — and then I’m moving again,” says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University.
 But it’s not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel.
 “It’s like your eyes are passing over the words but you’re not taking in what they say,” she confessed. “When I realize what’s happening, I have to go back and read again and again.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Financial Vulnerability of Americans

Atif Mian & Amir Sufi::

Excessive household debt was crucial in explaining the severity of the Great Recession. So where are we now? Have households strengthened their financial position since 2009? Are household balance sheets strong enough to prevent another massive pull back in spending if there are significant job losses?
 To answer to these questions, we look at evidence from the 2012 National Financial Capability Study by FINRA. (We are grateful to Annamaria Lusardi, an expert on financial literacy, for pointing us to the data used in this post.) This survey is a representative sample of 25,000 individuals who were asked mostly qualitative questions about their finances. The survey was put into the field three years after the worst of the Great Recession.
 The survey responses are shocking, and should put fear into all of us about the financial vulnerability of U.S. households.


Wesleyan bucks trend, lets students graduate in 3 years

Marcella Bombardieri:

They’ve given up on studying abroad, taking a summer vacation, or getting a full night’s sleep. Cookies or a granola bar on the run often constitute meals. Friends give them guilt trips for skipping out on the senior year bonding experience.
 But for a few students at Wesleyan University seeking to earn a degree in three years, there will be a big payoff: saving tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.
 Wesleyan, a liberal arts college sometimes called a “little Ivy,” appears to be the most elite school yet to embrace the idea of helping students cut down on the exorbitant cost of a college education by speeding up their journey to graduation.
 The sheer enormity of tuition prices has helped the concept of a three-year bachelor’s degree gain a foothold in recent years at a few dozen schools around the country, including the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Lesley University.
 The number of students choosing to participate remains tiny at most of the colleges, because of the difficulty of doing so and the enduring allure of four years in the ivory tower. And some educators worry that three years isn’t enough time for young people to find themselves intellectually or emotionally. But the endorsement from Wesleyan (sticker price $61,000 a year) may yet help popularize the idea.

Oppressed by the Ivy League What Dartmouth’s president should have told bullying students.

The Wall Street Journal:

Academia has been obsessed over identity politics for two generations, so there’s some justice in the newest addition to the matrix of oppression: an Ivy League education, according to the Dartmouth College students who this week took over the president’s office.
 On Tuesday Dartmouth’s finest seized the main administration building and disrupted college business. The squatters were allowed to remain until Thursday night, when the dean of the college negotiated and signed an exit settlement assuring them the non-dialogue would continue.
 The demonstrators had a 72-point manifesto instructing the college to establish pre-set racial admission quotas and a mandatory ethnic studies curriculum for all students. Their other inspirations are for more “womyn or people of color” faculty; covering sex change operations on the college health plan (“we demand body and gender self-determination”); censoring the library catalog for offensive terms; and installing “gender-neutral bathrooms” in every campus facility, specifically including sports locker rooms.

Financial school of thought questioned: Should Vendors teach Students?

Sophia Grene:

Financial education falls into the motherhood and apple-pie category – almost everyone is in favour of it. So the news that a number of asset managers have taken part in an initiative by Redstart to provide financial education to English schoolchildren appears positive.

The move has raised concerns, however, chiefly the potential conflicts of interest. Should the vendors of financial products also be allowed to provide education about them?

The founders of Redstart hail from Redington, the investment consultancy. The company has little to gain from getting its name in front of schoolchildren. Redington does not deal with the retail market, so has neither products to push nor brands to promote.

But asset managers, who have proved happy to become involved, are likely to count on schoolchildren being their future customers.

“If financial institutions want to fund financial education, that is all well and good, as long as they have no part in designing it or delivering it,” says Mick McAteer, founder and director of The Financial Inclusion Centre, a think-tank. “If they are serious about doing it for public policy reasons, not just as a Trojan horse marketing stunt, let them fund financial education charities.”

As Parents Struggle to Repay College Loans for Their Children, Taxpayers Also Stand to Lose

Marian Wang:

Parents are increasingly struggling to repay federal loans they’ve taken out to help cover their children’s college costs, according to newly released federal data.
 The Parent Plus program allows parents to take out essentially uncapped amounts to cover college costs, regardless of the borrower’s income or ability to repay the loan. As the cost of college has risen, the program has become an increasingly critical workaround for families that max out on federal student loans and can’t pay the rest out of pocket.
 Education Department officials have long said that they simply don’t have figures on how many of the loans were in default. But the agency has finally run some numbers. The data shows that default rates, while still modest, have nearly tripled over the last four years. About five percent of loans originated in fiscal year 2010 were in default three years later. The default rate at for-profit colleges is much higher, at 13 percent.
 Overall, there is about $62 billion in outstanding debt from Parent Plus, according to the new data. The average Parent Plus loan borrower owes about $20,300. The Education Department compiled the numbers at the request of a government committee that is working on new rules for the program.

Mathematics in Ancient Iraq

Princeton Press (PDF):

The mathematics of ancient Iraq, attested from the last three millennia BCE, was written on clay tablets in the Sumerian and Akkadian languages using the cuneiform script, often with numbers in the sexagesimal place value system (§1.2). There have been many styles of interpretation since the discovery and decipherment of that mathematics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries CE (§1.1), but this book advocates a combination of close attention to textual and linguistic detail, as well as material and archaeological evidence, to situate ancient mathematics within the socio-intellectual worlds of the individuals and communities who produced and consumed it (§1.3)

Iraq—Sumer—Babylonia—Mesopotamia: under any or all of these names almost every general textbook on the history of mathematics assigns the origins of ‘pure’ mathematics to the distant past of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Here, over five thousand years ago, the fi rst systematic accounting techniques were developed, using clay counters to represent fixed quantities of traded and stored goods in the world’s earliest cities (§2.2). Here too, in the early second millennium bce, the world’s first positional system of numerical notation—the famous sexagesimal place value system—was widely used (§4.2). The earliest widespread evidence for ‘pure’ mathematics comes from the same place and time, including a very accurate approximation to the square root of 2, an early form of abstract algebra, and the knowledge, if not proof, of ‘Pythagoras’ theorem’ defining the relationship between the sides of a right-angled triangle (§4.3). The best-known mathematical artefact from this time, the cuneiform tablet
Plimpton 322, has been widely discussed and admired, and claims have been made for its function that range from number theory to trigonometry to astronomy. Most of the evidence for mathematical astronomy, however, comes from the later fi rst millennium bce (§8.2), from which it is clear that Babylonian astronomical observations, calculational models, and the sexagesimal place value system all had a deep impact on the later development of Old World astronomy, in particular through the person and works of Ptolemy. It is hardly surprising, then, that ever since its discovery a century ago the mathematics of ancient Iraq has claimed an important role in
the history of early mathematics.

The Hegemonic Misandry Continues: ADHD

Cultural progressives often talk about something called “hegemonic masculinity.” By this progressives and feminists mean the standards we use to determine what an ideal man is in a particular culture. Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson, in The Gendered Society Reader, describe American hegemonic masculinity this way:

In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports . . . Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself–during moments at least–as unworthy, incomplete and inferior.

With this definition, progressives and feminists are on what seems to be a campaign to “dismantle” any sense of “American” masculinity. Additionally, part of the mission is to redefine all of America’s problems in terms of what males, especially white males, have done to ruin society. As many have argued before, the first step in solving social ills is to pathologize boyhood and numb it into oblivion.

Esquire Magazine recently ran a story titled “The Drugging Of The American Boy” which highlights the seemingly settled disposition that developing masculinity is something to be diagnosed as ADHD and, therefore, a problem to be solved. The article cites this data:

A ‘Rebel’ Without a Ph.D.

Thomas Lin:

Freeman Dyson — the world-renowned mathematical physicist who helped found quantum electrodynamics with the bongo-playing, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and others, devised numerous mathematical techniques, led the team that designed a low-power nuclear reactor that produces medical isotopes for research hospitals, dreamed of exploring the solar system in spaceships propelled by nuclear bombs, wrote technical and popular science books, penned dozens of reviews for The New York Review of Books, and turned 90 in December — is pondering a new math problem.

“There’s a class of problem that Freeman just lights up on,” said the physicist and computational biologist William Press, a longtime colleague and friend. “It has to be unsolved and well-posed and have something in it that admits to his particular kind of genius.” That genius, he said, represents a kind of “ingenuity and a spark” that most physicists lack: “The ability to see further in the mathematical world of concepts and instantly grasp a path to the distant horizon that’s the solution.”

The Consumer Student

Priyamvada Gopal:

The once highly-regarded British public university is not quite dead but it is in terminal care. After half a century of global success on public funding that amounted to less than 1.5% of Britain’s GDP, in the space of two years we’ve seen the partial withdrawal of the state from the sector, and it is expected that this is a precursor to full withdrawal followed by extensive privatisation.

With the overnight tripling of tuition fees in 2010 (in the face of widespread protests) and with further rises in the offing, the student has been reframed as a consumer buying private goods in the form of a degree. Combine this with a mortgage and you have a large number of citizens who are unlikely to be debt-free at any point in their life.

Formerly known as a university, the service provider of higher education is now to sink or swim in response to the pressures of competition, as degree-awarding corporations rather than sites of inquiry and learning. Ironically, however, it turns out that the new fees regime which David Willetts, the Universities Minister, keeps bizarrely insisting is fairer than the previous one, is actually costing the exchequer more, through the rising costs of subsidising student loans.

Illustration by Stanley Mouse Field Trippin’ One high school teacher’s account of a trip he didn’t mean to take

John Moss:

We were barely past MacArthur when I felt it beginning to take hold. It was a big Friday for me, taking 40 students on a walking field trip to our local bookstore, then a tour of the Community Center and, if there was enough time, a little sit-under-a-tree-and-read time for the students in the Plaza.

I was in my 10th year of teaching in the only alternative high school in the town of Sonoma. Fall semester I was teaching English, algebra, science and art to students who usually hate each of those subjects. My primary task was engagement: get the kids understanding why knowledge is power and why they should give a shit, and then fill in the blanks as they appear.

It was the beginning of the year, and my office manager had informed the staff two weeks ago that we suddenly had $4,000 to spend. “But spend it fast,” she warned, “because you never know.” Budget distribution in the district frequently means no money for long periods of time, then a big wad to be spent within two weeks before it disappears into another pot. I quickly scheduled a Friday walking field trip to Readers’ Books, telling each student they had $15 to spend on a book of their choice. The only catch was that they would have to complete a book report. It’s an excellent way to spend $600, as most of my students have never been in a bookstore, much less bought or read a book of their own.

Taiwan Speaker Offers Concession to Student Protesters

Eva Dou:

In a concession to student protesters, Taiwan Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said Sunday a review of a contentious services trade pact with China will be delayed until an oversight mechanism for cross-strait agreements is enacted.

The announcement is the largest gesture of conciliation from Mr. Wang since students stormed the legislature three weeks ago and barricaded themselves inside to protest the services trade agreement, which was signed last year.

The protesters have said negotiations between Taipei and Beijing weren’t transparent and demanded that the government set up a legally binding mechanism to oversee all cross-Strait deals, including the services trade pact, to ensure proper oversight and public input.

Pressure is mounting on the government to resolve an impasse over the trade pact that has moved thousands of students to camp inside and outside the legislature since March 18. More than 100,000 protesters gathered outside Taiwan’s Presidential Office Building in downtown Taipei last Sunday.

Milwaukee’s week at the center of the education universe

Alan Borsuk:

“It’s all about teacher quality,” Eric Hanushek said.

“What improves student achievement is improved instruction,” said Michael Casserly.

What’s needed, said Paul Hill, is “a mechanism to drive (the search for improvement) beyond the comfort zone of the school providers.”

If you were looking for one answer for improving American education outcomes, you didn’t find it in Milwaukee last week. But if you were looking for food for thought, the week brought rich offerings.

An unusual number of the nation’s — and in some cases, the world’s — leading thinkers and voices on education were involved in two separate events, one public, one invitation-only.

The public event, at Marquette University Law School, focused on what Milwaukee can learn from urban school systems where there are signs of improvement. (I was involved in organizing the session and moderated part of it.)

The private event was hosted by the low-profile but influential Kern Family Foundation, based in Waukesha County with more than a half billion dollars in assets and a strong interest in education.

Kern brought together 15 to 20 researchers and advocates at a downtown Milwaukee hotel to work on strategies for increasing U.S. success in international educational competitiveness. I sat in on several presentations (and will say more on what I learned later).

Public Schools Can’t Help but Curb Freedom of Expression

Neil McCluskey:

It was trending on Twitter all day on Tuesday: #ReligiousFreedomForAll. The impetus was the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case being argued before the Supreme Court, and disgust over government forcing people to pay for medical treatments they find immoral. But if people cared about public schooling as much as they do Obamacare, hashtags defending all kinds of freedom would be the daily norm on Twitter.

Just like Obamacare, public schools — government institutions for which all people must pay — regularly violate basic rights. They have to: Among many curbs on freedom, to avoid chaos schools have to have rules about what students and teachers can say, and decisions must be made about what is — and is not — taught.

Consider the nationally covered Easton Area School District v. B.H. case (colloquially known as “I (Heart) Boobies”), which the Supreme Court refused to hear a few weeks ago. It involved two students in Easton, PA, who were suspended for wearing pink, breast-cancer-awareness bracelets that carried the “boobies” message. The district argued that the bracelets, with their intentionally attention-grabbing message, threatened school“decorum” and “the civility of discussion in the classroom.”

Too many degrees are a waste of money. The return on higher education would be much better if college were cheaper

The Economist

WHEN LaTisha Styles graduated from Kennesaw State University in Georgia in 2006 she had $35,000 of student debt. This obligation would have been easy to discharge if her Spanish degree had helped her land a well-paid job. But there is no shortage of Spanish-speakers in a nation that borders Latin America. So Ms Styles found herself working in a clothes shop and a fast-food restaurant for no more than $11 an hour.

Frustrated, she took the gutsy decision to go back to the same college and study something more pragmatic. She majored in finance, and now has a good job at an investment consulting firm. Her debt has swollen to $65,000, but she will have little trouble paying it off.

As Ms Styles’s story shows, there is no simple answer to the question “Is college worth it?” Some degrees pay for themselves; others don’t. American schoolkids pondering whether to take on huge student loans are constantly told that college is the gateway to the middle class. The truth is more nuanced, as Barack Obama hinted when he said in January that “folks can make a lot more” by learning a trade “than they might with an art history degree”. An angry art history professor forced him to apologise, but he was right.

College graduates aged 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $17,500 more annually than their peers who have only a high school diploma, according to the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank. But not all degrees are equally useful. And given how much they cost—a residential four-year degree can set you back as much as $60,000 a year—many students end up worse off than if they had started working at 18.

Buried Treasure: It Takes a City

Ashley Jochim:

Lyndon B. Johnson once quipped, “Good politics is good government.” Johnson realized that whether a given public policy achieves its intended objectives is rarely a matter solely of technical design. Rather, success depends both on the quality of the plan and whether it is implemented fully enough to stand the chance of having an impact—a process that may take years.

It has been more than a decade since my colleagues at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, Paul Hill and Christine Campbell, wrote It Takes a City: Getting Serious About Urban School Reform along with James Harvey. But its lessons about urban school reform are as relevant now as they were then. In analyzing systemic education reform in six cities, the authors posed a question of enormous consequence: How can city leaders construct reform strategies that promise to be powerful enough and last long enough to make a difference?

Fixing urban schools, they argued, requires more than lofty goals or incomplete strategies. The reform plans in the studied cities too often relied on “zones of wishful thinking”—assuming that teachers, principals, and district administrators would do what was right, rather than creating a plan that provided the incentives, freedom, and capacity for them to do so. Combining the best elements of each, the authors put forth three new reform models, including one option that would provide community oversight of a system of autonomous schools, much like the portfolio strategy does today.

The Long (Long) Wait to Be a Grandparent

Anne Tergesen:

As more couples delay having children, their parents have to wait longer for their first grandchild. Anne Tergesen joins Lunch Break with a look at the broader societal impact of couples having children later. Photo: Videoblocks.

It’s a natural part of growing older. People start to long for grandchildren—and many start to pressure their adult child, in overt or subtle ways, to produce those grandchildren.

For the current generation of would-be grandparents and their children, those desires are getting more urgent—and the pressure is getting a lot more intense.

It comes down to simple arithmetic. More individuals are waiting until their 30s and beyond to have their first child. Perhaps they want to get their finances or career in order first, find the right partner or take on other big projects like an advanced degree or world travel.

Whatever the reason, the result is that their parents have to wait longer for their first grandchild—perhaps to age 70 instead of age 60. They have to worry about whether they will be healthy enough to help out and enjoy the time they have with their grandchildren. Or if they’ll be alive at all.

Slideware: Madison’s “Educator Effectiveness” or Teacher Evaluation Process?

Madison School District (PDF):

Understand the status of the MMSD evaluator certification process
Understand who will be evaluated and when

Understand the evaluation workflow

Understand professional development calendar to support implementation

When will staff be evaluated?

MMSD will “reset” the evaluation schedule, balancing one-third of evaluations, for each building, across the next 3 years

All new teachers to MMSD must be evaluated in their first year of employment

Referenced edu-jargon translation:

The Danielson Framework: Duck Duck Go | Google | Bing.

The Teachscape Evaluator: Duck Duck Go | Google | Bing.

What impact did Hans Christian Andersen have on children’s literature?

Oxford Dictionaries:

An extract from the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, available on Oxford Reference.

Although Andersen considered himself a novelist and playwright, his novels, dramas, and comedies are almost forgotten today, while his unquestionable fame is based on his fairy tales. He published four collections: Eventyr, fortalte for børn (Fairy Tales, Told for Children, 1835–1842), Nye eventyr (New Fairy Tales, 1844–1848), Historier (Stories, 1852–1855), and Nye eventyr og historier (New Fairy Tales and Stories, 1858–1872), which were an immediate, unprecedented success and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Yet only a handful of his fairy tales and stories are widely read today.

Sources of his stories: from folklore to literature

Although Andersen could have read Grimms’ fairy tales, the sources of his stories were mostly Danish folk tales, collected and retold by his immediate predecessors J. M. Thiele, Adam Oehlenschlæger, and Bernhard Ingemann. Unlike the collectors, whose aim was to preserve and sometimes to classify and study folktales, Andersen was primarily a writer, and his objective was to create new literary works based on folklore, although some of his fairy tales have their origins in ancient poetry (“The Naughty Boy”) or medieval European literature (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”). He also found inspiration in the literary fairy tales by the German Romantics such as Heinrich Hoffmann and Adelbert von Chamisso.

How to get British kids reading

Henry Mance:

Pavan’s favourite activity is playing football outdoors. His second favourite is playing football indoors, and in third place is practising football skills against the sofa. Reading – the pursuit that Francis Bacon claimed “maketh a full man” – comes further down the eight-year-old’s list, behind school, going to discos, buying stuff, chatting to people, watching TV and playing on his Xbox games console.

Would he ever pick up a book for pleasure? “No,” Pavan shoots back jovially. “If I’m bored, I will ask my mum if I can play on her phone.” By this point, I am relieved that Michael Gove is not part of our conversation at a homework club in Harlesden Library, north London.

The UK education secretary has long feared that British children are “just not reading enough”. The same concern has been raised by publishers and literacy charities, which worry that new distractions – computer games, online videos, social networking – are pushing books off the shelf. More than 60 per cent of 18-to-30-year-olds now prefer watching television or DVDs to reading, according to a survey for the charity Booktrust. A similar proportion of young people think the internet and computers will replace books in the next 20 years.

The literacy debate received fresh impetus last October when a study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested that vast numbers of young people were leaving school without the ability to read well. Of the 24 industrialised countries covered by the research, England was the only one that went backwards, with literacy and numeracy skills lower among the young – those aged 16 to 24 – than the old. (The results were little better in Northern Ireland; Scotland and Wales were not included in the study.)

Dance of the lemons Reformers want to make it easier to sack bad teachers

The Economist:

JOSH, a young social-studies teacher working in a tough part of Los Angeles, had been on the job for less than a year when word came that it might not last much longer. Its public finances in ruins, California was slashing budgets and laying off thousands of teachers. Josh’s headmaster fought to keep him, but his hands were tied; under the state’s strict “last in, first out” seniority rules, enshrined in statute, the most recent recruits had to be fired first, regardless of ability.

Luckily Josh found a job at a charter school (funded by the state but run independently). Three years later, he says he can understand why experienced teachers deserve protection; as a newbie, the help he received from veterans at his first school was invaluable. Yet others seemed to be serving time; it was hard to see them “chuckle on” in the cafeteria when he was being told to leave.

More Financial Aid + Less Need to Work = More STEM Graduates?

Goldie Blumenstyck:

Students who major in the sciences often spend more time in out-of-class work—in labs or field research—than other students do. That means less time to earn money while in college, and sometimes it’s the reason financially needy students switch out of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, the STEM fields.

Would an extra $1,000 a year in financial aid help some of those STEM-inclined students stick with it?

That’s the essence of a new study getting under way next fall at 11 Wisconsin colleges. With $4-million from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, which will make possible the extra $1,000 a year, and a $1.5-million grant from the National Science Foundation, Sara Goldrick-Rab will study the effects of the extra aid by comparing the academic paths of 1,000 students who will get the money with 1,000 others who won’t.

The grants won’t displace other financial aid that the students are otherwise due to receive, and when students are told they are getting the money, “it’s not going to say, ‘You’ve got to do STEM,’” says Ms. Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational-policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The idea behind the project is simply to see if giving students fewer reasons to work, and no other requirements, makes a difference in helping more lower-income students pursue STEM majors.

An Update on Credit for Non Madison School District Courses; Instructional Policy Changes

The Madison School District (PDF):

Effective July 1, 2016, increase math and science graduation requirements by 1 credit each and eliminate specific math course requirements

Remove references to the High School Graduation Test (HGST)

Add language permitting course equivalencies

Related: notes and links on Credit for non-Madison School District courses.

Appealing to a College for more Financial Aid

Ron Lieber:

The era of the financial aid appeal has arrived in full, and April is the month when much of the action happens.

For decades, in-the-know families have gone back to college financial aid officers to ask for a bit more grant money after the first offer arrived. But word has spread, and the combination of the economic collapse in 2008-9 and the ever-rising list price for tuition and expenses has led to a torrent of requests for reconsideration each spring.

Do not call it bargaining. Or negotiation. That makes financial aid officers mad, as they don’t like to think of themselves as presiding over an open-air bazaar. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask. At many of the private colleges and universities that students insist on shooting for, half or more of families who appeal get more money. And this year, for the first time, the average household income of financial aid applicants will top $100,000 at the 163 private colleges and universities that the consulting firm Noel-Levitz tracks.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Cities See a ‘Bright Flight’ Highly Educated Americans Increasingly Move to More Affordable Metro Areas in South, West

Neil Shah:

Highly educated Americans are choosing cheaper metropolitan centers in the West and South over more dominant—and expensive—population centers on the coasts and former industrial hubs.

After flocking to areas with ample employment opportunities such as New York City and Los Angeles for years, the nation’s most educated are fanning out in search of better jobs, lower housing costs and improved quality of life.

The 25 U.S. counties with the largest net inflow of people older than 25 with graduate or professional degrees arriving from out of state are nearly all linked to more affordable cities like Raleigh, N.C., and San Antonio, according to an analysis of census data by The Wall Street Journal.

Demographers cite several causes for the shift, including soaring property prices in coastal areas, stagnant paychecks and heightened wariness about the increase in debt that is often the price of admission in bigger cities. The proliferation of regional technology hubs in places such as Raleigh also plays a role, while taxes are often lower in parts of the South.
“It’s a kind of middle-class flight—a bright flight,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington, D.C. “People are moving to where the cost of living is reasonable.”

Madison is considering a further property tax increase via referendum this fall.

Commentary on the Growth in Federal K-12 Redistributed Tax Dollar Spending

Reihan Salam:

Rather than shift the tax burden from households with children to relatively high-earning households without children, Felix Salmon of Reuters proposes increasing federal education funding. This strikes me as ill-conceived for a number of reasons. If anything, I would suggest that we move in the opposite direction. Though federal spending represents a relatively small share of K-12 spending at present (13 percent of the total as of 2010), this understates the extent of federal influence, as federal mandates shape how much of the remaining spending is disbursed. And so the U.S. has a far more centralized, far more tightly-regulated K-12 system than is commonly understood. The chief virtues of a decentralized system — the potential for innovation as different jurisdictions and educational providers embrace new approaches to instruction, management, compensation, recruitment, and scaling successful approaches, among other things — are greatly undermined by the prescriptiveness of federal education policy, which has grown worse under the Obama administration thanks to its use of policy waivers to impose its vision of education reform on local districts. We thus have the worst of both worlds: we have a theoretically decentralized system plagued by a lack of creativity and experimentation outside of charter schools, which serve fewer than 4 percent of K-12 public school students; and we have a federal government that imposes enormous compliance costs on K-12 schools without actually providing much in the way of resources. Salmon’s strategy is to double down on centralization; let’s keep imposing compliance costs, yet let’s at least do more to finance schools as well. Another approach would be to foster creativity and experimentation by having the federal government take on the tasks to which it is best suited.

As Rick Hess and Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute have argued, the federal government could play to its strengths by abandoning its efforts to tightly regulate local schools and instead (a) promote basic research in cognitive science and human learning; (b) serve as a “scorekeeper” that measures educational outcomes and, just as importantly, spending levels across districts and student populations so that the public will have more reliable data on the return on investment; (c) encourage competition and innovation not by prescribing that local communities embrace charter schools or vouchers (though both ideas could do a great deal of good, and state and local electorates ought to embrace these ideas of their own volition) but by addressing the compliance costs created by federal mandates, encouraging alternative paths to teacher certification to expand the teacher talent pool and get around onerous licensing requirement; and (d) develop a bankruptcy-like mechanism that would allow dysfunctional school districts to restructure their obligations without first having to appeal to state education authorities. One of the more attractive aspects of this agenda, incidentally, is that it largely allows contentious questions about the best approach to educating children to state and local officials while providing parents and policymakers with meaningful yardsticks to evaluate the success or failure of different approaches.

Where Federal Education Funds Should Really Be Going

Avi Yaschin:

The Fix Is it scandalous to claim that not everyone needs a university degree? When we look at some of the major trends swamping the American economy, like unemployment and student debt, the real scandal is how we neglect vocational education, even though it is a solution to both of these crises. Skilled labor could fill a bulk of vacant jobs, and a cohort of learners could be saved from the quicksand of student debt, if only we placed more importance, and more resources, on vocational training. But alas, vocational education programs don’t seem to get the respect (read: funding) that they deserve.

Vocational training programs do not preclude a college education. In fact, professional licenses and certifications were found to lead to higher earnings both in combination with, and in the absence of, post-secondary degrees. Having an alternative credential, like LEED accreditation, is associated with an earnings premium for every level of educational achievement, with the exception of master’s degree holders, according to a report by the US Census Bureau. So while my standpoint may sound averse to university degrees, it’s not; it’s simply asking for us to dedicate more public resources and respect for educational programs that better suit the needs of many students, and better suit the needs of the skilled economy.

The college degree dream is an unsuitable paradigm for the future of the American labor force. President Obama’s plan to boost domestic innovation and reduce dependence on foreign production will only come about if we focus further resources on training Americans for the careers that need them. With apprenticeships, workforce training and professional certification courses that teach workers the skills they need now, we can reach a more appropriate proportion between middle skills education and the university degree system. The prevailing pursuit of the American dream has placed college degrees on a precarious pedestal. But as middle-skills become synonymous with the middle class, why shouldn’t the American Dream include blue-collar work?

First Test For College Hopefuls? Decoding Financial Aid Letters

NPR, via a kind reader email:

Around the country, millions of parents of prospective college freshmen are puzzling over one big question: How will we pay for college?

The first step for many families is reviewing the financial aid award letters they receive from each school. But often those letters can be confusing. Some are filled with acronyms and abbreviations, others lump scholarships and loans together. And because they’re often very different, they’re also difficult to compare.

Chris Reeves, a guidance counselor at Beechwood High School in Fort Mitchell, Ky., tells NPR’s David Greene that he fields lots of questions from families trying to decipher their award letters. “They don’t always understand that part of the financial aid package includes loans,” he says.

But loans “don’t really reduce your costs,” explains Mark Kantrowitz, founder of the financial aid website FinAid.org and publisher of Edvisors Network. “They simply spread them out over time. … A loan is a loan. It has to be repaid, usually with interest — which increases your costs.”

Stanford edges out Harvard on admissions

Eric Platt:

Stanford University edged out its rival Harvard University for the second year in a row to be the most selective academic institution in America, despite cooling application trends.

The latest admissions figures showed applications overall remained near the levels of the previous year as the pace of the rise in those seeking out places in elite universities abates. According to figures analysed by the Financial Times, applications filed to 40 selective US institutions were stagnant at levels of the previous year.

Nonetheless, finding a spot at most of these universities remains a challenge.

Stanford was joined by Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Yale, and Princeton universities, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in accepting fewer than 10 per cent of applicants.

Spokane Administrative plan for math is to fix the math program later

Laurie Rogers:

According to The Spokesman-Review, Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger said in October 2013 that math outcomes in Spokane are “average” and that’s why the school district is focusing on repairing its English/language arts program.

The impression given in the article was that math instruction in Spokane is in an OK place, not great but not terrible, and that attention needs to be paid first to ELA.

Such an impression, however, isn’t what college remedial rates indicate to be true. It isn’t reflected in most high school graduates, nor in most students in any grade prior. It isn’t what I have told the superintendent; it isn’t what she has repeatedly acknowledged to me. It isn’t what she told me that the rest of the Spokane community has said to her. Even board directors appear to have gotten a clue: On Dec. 4, 2013, director Rocky Treppiedi called the district’s math program “a disgrace.” And it is.

I asked Dr. Redinger about her choice of the word “average” to describe math outcomes in Spokane, and she wrote that she chose the word because district scores are “at the state average in mathematics.”

If I didn’t know better, I might accept that. However, I do know better.

The Madison Teachers, Inc. Budget Process

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email (PDF):

Each year about this time MTI engages in the process of developing its Budgets for the ensuing fiscal year, in this case July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. MTI has two (2) budgets, one for MTI (the Union) and one for the MTI Building Corporation, the owner of MTI’s headquarter’s building.

MTI’s Budget is the operating Budget under which the Union provides services to the members of its five (5) bargaining units; i.e. the Teacher/professional unit (MTI); the Educational Assistants bargaining unit (EA-MTI); the Clerical/Technical bargaining unit (SEE-MTI); the Substitute Teacher bargaining unit (USO-MTI); and the Security Assistants bargaining unit (SSA-MTI).

The Union’s Budget provides funds for bargaining, member representation, member and Union legal services, legislative action, public relations, and labor solidarity with other unions experiencing crisis. The Union Budget also provides funds for rent paid to the MTI Building Corporation for office and meeting space, staffing, equipment lease/purchase, telephone, printing and the like, to enable the Union to perform the services required to fulfill its obligation to the members of the various bargaining units.
The Union’s Budget, in addition to dues, also includes
funds for political action, paid by those who are willing to advance the cause of education and those who are represented by MTI.

The MTI Solidarity Fund is included in the Budget, but is not funded by dues. Rather, these funds assist members in need and come from voluntary contributions by MTI members and others.

Battle lines forming in LA Unified for ‘Local Control’ spending

Vanessa Romo:

The battle over the new money coming into LA Unified from the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula starts in earnest tomorrow when Superintendent John Deasy lays out his plan for the 2014-15 budget.
Deasy is meeting with reporters to unveil his spending priorities plan for an estimated $390 million the district will receive in extra resources, before he presents it to the school board on Tuesday.

It’ll be the first glimpse of how well (or how poorly) competing interests have lobbied for a piece of the pie, and it’s likely to kick off of an intense debate over dollars as the district — like all school districts in California — formulates its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) over the next couple of months.

A preview of the pressures came into view today when Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) and various constituencies outlined their wish-list for some of the districts’ neediest schools.

Under the new plan, districts will receive a base grant per student. Beyond that, students who are either low-income, foster youth or English learners earn supplemental money. Additionally, schools with more than 55 percent of low-income students get concentration grants.

Report looks at earning potential of RI graduates

Alison Bologna:

A new report from the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now looks at the state’s education system.

Christine Lopes of RI-CAN said Thursday that the group looks at statewide date to measure trends and outcomes.

This is the fourth report generated in four years, and this year a focus is on earning power for students who graduate from a high school in Rhode Island.

“We found that a high school graduate in Rhode Island can earn about $25,000 a year. What’s even more startling is there’s a $40,000 a year gap between a student who graduates high school and a student that has a bachelor’s or higher,” Lopes said.

State Education Commission Deborah Gist said she wasn’t completely surprised by that.

High School in Southern Georgia: What ‘Career Technical’ Education Looks Like

James Fallows:

Earlier this month my wife and I spent about a week, in two visits, in the little town of St. Marys, Georgia, on the southernmost coast of Georgia just north of Florida and just east of the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s a beautiful and historic town, which is best known either as the jumping-off point for visits to adjoining Cumberland Island National Seashore or for the enormous Kings Bay naval base, which is the East Coast home of U.S. Navy’s nuclear-missile submarine fleet and which is the largest employer in the area.

St. Marys is known to our family for its complicated and often-troubled corporate history, which I described long ago in a book called The Water Lords and which we’ll return to in upcoming posts. But it also highlights an aspect of American education which we’ve encountered repeatedly in our travels around the country and is well illustrated by the school shown above, Camden County High School, or CCHS from this point on.

Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children

The Annie E. Casey Foundation:

In this policy report, the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the intersection of kids, race and opportunity. The report features the new Race for Results index, which compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level. The index is based on 12 indicators that measure a child’s success in each stage of life, from birth to adulthood, in the areas of early childhood; education and early work; family supports; and neighborhood context. The report also makes four policy recommendations to help ensure that all children and their families achieve their full potential.

What I’ve Learned Teaching Charter Students

Nicholas Simmons:

I’m a seventh-grade math teacher at Success Academy Harlem West, a public charter school. On April 30 and May 2, 3, the 272 students at my school, along with some 480,000 other New York City public school children, will sit for the state math exam. Last year, 89% of my seventh-graders and 83% of our sixth-graders passed the test, more than half scoring at the highest level.

But only 29% of all sixth-grade public-school students in the city passed the New York State Mathematics Test last year. Among sixth-grade black and Latino kids, only 15% and 17% passed, respectively. Among my sixth-graders, 97% are African-American or Latino, and three out of four of them are from low-income families.

Many teachers and parents—as well as New York City’s school chancellor and the mayor, have said there is too much emphasis on testing. But at Success Academy, we believe internal assessments and the results from state exams are essential feedback for how well we as teachers have done our job in the classroom. Students and teachers embrace academic rigor and take pride in having some of the top math scores in the city, in many cases outperforming the city’s gifted and talented programs.

Almost a quarter of postgrad students at English universities are Chinese

Richard Adams:

There are now almost as many Chinese students on full-time postgraduate courses at English universities as there are British students, according to figures published on Wednesday.

But the rising numbers of Chinese students masks a drop in the overall number of foreign students studying in England for the first time in almost three decades.

According to figures from the Higher Education Funding Council of England (Hefce), 23% of students studying for masters-level degree courses are from China while 26% of students are from the UK – a sign that English universities are increasingly replying on China to fill its courses.

“The degree of reliance on students from China at full-time masters level varies across the subject group,” Hefce said. The highest concentration is in maths, where Chinese students make up 58% of all international entrants, followed by 56% in media studies, 47% in business and management studies and 39% in engineering.

Prediction: No commencement speaker will mention this – the huge gender degree gap for the Class of 2014 favoring women

Mark Perry:

Now that we’re about a month away from college graduation season, I thought it would be a good time to show the updated chart above of the huge college degree gap by gender for the upcoming College Class of 2014 (data here). Based on Department of Education estimates, women will earn a disproportionate share of college degrees at every level of higher education in 2014 for the ninth straight year. Overall, women in the Class of 2014 will earn 140 college degrees at all levels for every 100 men, and there will be a 638,200 college degree gap in favor of women for this year’s class (2.21 million total degrees for women vs. 1.57 million total degrees for men). By level of degree, women will earn: a) 160 associate’s degrees for every 100 men, b) 130 bachelor’s degrees for every 100 men, 149 master’s degrees for every 100 men and 106 doctoral degrees for every 100 men.

Over the next decade, the gender disparity for college degrees is expected to increase according to Department of Education forecasts, so that by 2022, women will earn 148 college degrees for every 100 degrees earned by men, with especially huge gender imbalances in favor of women for associate’s degrees (162 women for every 100 men) and master’s degrees (162 women for every 100 men).

Does Classroom Time Matter? A Randomized Field Experiment of Hybrid and Traditional Lecture Formats in Economics

Theodore J. Joyce, Sean Crockett, David A. Jaeger, Onur Altindag, Stephen D. O’Connell:

We test whether students in a hybrid format of introductory microeconomics, which met once per week, performed as well as students in a traditional lecture format of the same class, which met twice per week. We randomized 725 students at a large, urban public university into the two formats, and unlike past studies, had a very high participation rate of 96 percent. Two experienced professors taught one section of each format, and students in both formats had access to the same online materials. We find that students in the traditional format scored 2.3 percentage points more on a 100-point scale on the combined midterm and final. There were no differences between formats in non-cognitive effort (attendance, time spent with online materials) nor in withdrawal from the class. Comparing our experimental estimates of the effect of attendance with non-experimental estimates using only students in the traditional format, we find that the non-experimental were 2.5 times larger, suggesting that the large effects of attending lectures found in the previous literature are likely due to selection bias. Overall our results suggest that hybrid classes may offer a cost effective alternative to traditional lectures while having a small impact on student performance.

Benchmarking UK students vs Chinese: Light Years From Wisconsin

Richard Adams:

England’s GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017, in a response from exam regulators to ministers’ calls to toughen up a marking system they say has been discredited by years of grade inflation.

At the urging of the education secretary, Michael Gove, Ofqual has unveiled a plan to link GCSE grades to levels achieved by pupils in China, Singapore and other countries deemed to be high-performing.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, conceded that the watchdog was responding to a written request from Gove that exams should be more demanding because international tables suggest the UK has fallen behind even as results appear to have improved.

But the idea of an international educational currency prompted concern from teaching unions, who said some countries excluded certain types of children to boost their scores in international tests.

Light years away from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s lost decades with the oft-criticized WKCE.

Stompin’ at The Savoy With Concord Review Author Delaney Moran

Bill Korach, via Will Fitzhugh:

Delaney Moran, a senior at Lenox Memorial High School in Lenox, MA, has written an evocative account about the legendary Savoy Ballroom in Harlem for The Concord Review. “Stompin’ at the Savoy” the hit song written by Edgar Sampson and recorded separately by Benny Goodman and Chick Webb recalls the great days of the Savoy Ballroom in the 1930’s and 40’s. Since 1987, The Concord Review has been publishing the best high school papers in America. Each quarter, Will Fitzhugh, TCR publisher and his reviewers select the best papers for publication. The papers, from 6000-20,000 words represent the gold standard in high school writing. Fitzhugh and many others in education believe that reading and writing are the best way to learn and think. Writing was once an obvious and basic educational tool, but today as schools are dumbing down their students serious writing has all but vanished from the classroom. Happily, TCR continues to find and publish excellent work.

Delaney Moran’s paper opens with this account:

The entrance to the Savoy was at street level. You went down one flight to check your coat, then you walked back up two flights to the ballroom which was on the second floor. as I was climbing the steps that led to the ballroom, I could hear this swinging music coming down the stairwell, and it started seeping right into my body. I got to the top step, went through the double doors, and stopped for a moment with my back to the bandstand, taking it all in. When I turned around and faced the room…well, I just stood there with my mouth open. The whole floor was full of people—and they were dancing! The band was pounding. The guys up there were wailing! The music was rompin’ and stompin’. everyone was movin’ and groovin’.1
These were the remarks of Frankie Manning, a black dancer from Harlem, upon entering the Savoy Ballroom for the first time. This scene depicts a typical night at the Savoy Ballroom in 1930s Harlem. The Savoy was the most popular nightclub in the city and home to the best jazz and the best dancers New York had to offer.2 Remarkably, it was completely integrated from its inception in 1926, despite segregation in almost every other section of the country, including New York City.

Why Computer Science Should Be a High School Graduation Requirement


The facts about computer and smartphone ownership make it extremely apparent that smart technology and the internet has become a human necessity. This technology has become almost as essential as access to transportation or grocery stores. People simply cannot survive in this modern era without access to computers and the World Wide Web.

Clearly, students should begin to grow up with a deeper understanding of the technology that defines their lives. They are required to have a fundamental understanding of natural sciences like physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as mathematics, like geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. Presumably, these requirements were put into place so that students would graduate from high school with at least a basic understanding of how the world around them works, but if these students don’t understand computers, they won’t even come close to understanding the world around them.